Winning the Eisenhower Fellowship, an honor and a responsibility

I am getting ready for an exciting two-month journey with the Eisenhower Fellowships, Women Leaders Program 2015 which will take me to Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York, Boston, Sedona, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Miami.
Like my explorer ancestors, I will be touring the US’s top local and international organizations, public and UN institutions, corporations and politicians to “explore” new ways to advocate for gender equality and equal rights for all. This journey will help me examine existing international conventions and US developed tools and strategies to make more impact on the gender reform agenda for Lebanon and the MENA region.
Throughout this fellowship, I will be posting photos, comments, blog posts and reflections and welcome your feedback and suggestions. Receiving the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship is a great honor, but it is not a personal award; as you know me well, I will pay it forward! It is indeed winning an opportunity for the Lebanese Civil Society’s voice to be heard in the US and an excellent occasion to highlight all that my fellow activists have done so far and to examine partnerships and collaborations with the US, UN and international institutions.
I depart on this journey with a profound sense of pride in my fellow activists who are taking it to the streets in Beirut to speak-up against corruption, injustice and every undemocratic action the existing Lebanese “war-lords” politicians and their allies have used to hijack the first democracy in the Middle East… When I am asked, I will do everything I can to make your voices heard and your demands, our demands, properly underscored.
I am looking forward to this exciting journey and I know I will come back with lessons, tools, ideas and partnerships that will allow us all to work together for a better and inclusive society in Lebanon! Winning the Eisenhower Fellowship is an honor but also a great  responsibility. I have so many people to thank for mentoring me and supporting me in preparing for this journey, I shall thank you all by making the best out of this exceptional opportunity! Philadelphia, here I come!
Click here for my Eisenhower Fellowships introductory bio available on the Eisenhower Fellowship website.

DAESH vs ISIS and the ignorance of the West

I really don’t understand the debate about the preference of using the acronyms DAESH over ISIS when they both mean the same thing: Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (Syria). ISIS gives no more legitimacy then DAESH does to this barbaric group which flies the colors of a terrorist state in the making. For God’s sake, if you do not wish to call this group a “state”, find them another name, like: “Crazy Bloodthirsty Demons in Iraq and Syria” or “Armed Psychopaths in Iraq and Syria”.

To many diplomats I have heard speaking in the past few days, the invented derogatory meaning of the Arabic acronym DAESH is even more disturbing. According to this article, the term DAESH is close to “Dahes” or “one who sows discord”. Seriously??

First, Dahes or داهس which by the way means in English the person who runs over someone else, or crushes someone else, is not close to the arabic pronunciation of DAESH/ داعش. Any arabic speaker can confirm that.

Second, the continuous justification of the use of the DAESH as a derogatory term simply underlines how the west views the Arabic language as barbaric and violent.

Mr. Cameron and co, the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham calls itself DAESH, therefore by using the term it prefers rather than the English acronym, you have not only called this terrorist state by it’s real name which it’s been marketing on it’s new acquired territory, you are also showing how ignorant and how racist the west is. Get an Arabic translator before you go into ridiculous debates, and if you still have time, try to help these poor people in Iraq and Syria to whom you have exported all your crazy bloodthirsty animals!

Here is the topic of debate in England: defining what to call a terrorist group instead of help finding ways to stop it from spreading its madness!

When Arabs Think The Apocalypse Is Near Because The US Legislated Same-Sex Marriage

This gallery contains 16 photos.

Originally posted on A Separate State of Mind | A Blog by Elie Fares:
I’m so honored and flattered to be living in the most open-minded and widely-accepting region of the world. Not only is everything peachy, wonderful and exceedingly rainbow-y around this place, but people in the region are adamant that their quality of life…

11 types of facebook commenters on Mia Khalifa’s photos


While I was working on a research paper the other day and checking scientific articles on Facebook, I came across Mia Khalifa’s profile photos BY MISTAKE. I guess everyone else came across Mia’s profile by mistake, just like me.  Ten minutes later, I found myself sipping a hot cocoa, and reading the few thousands comments on her pics. And here are 11 types of commenters I have stumbled upon.

WARNING: this post contains genitalia. 

1- The haters (and busterds) of course who happen to support ISIS


2- The Priest ya shar….


3- The micro-penis Lebanese “Fa7el”


4- The guy who supports local products


5- The confused guy


6- The gays of course


7- And the lesbians.


8- The Lebanese racist


9- the Teenage fan who just discovered masturbation


10- The Najwa Karam


“الرمان ل بين ذراعا، فرخ من غير زراعة، ما بيتاكل قطف وفرط، غير تفرفك ورضاعة”

11- THIS

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On Human Rights, Homophobia and Donors’ Priorities

On Human Rights, Homophobia and Donors’ Priorities

I had an interesting side conversation last night about donors priorities versus civil society needs. I do agree that sometimes there need to be a better rapprochement between the two so as to reduce the level of corruption, and implementing projects for the sake of pleasing the donor rather than addressing the issues that are at the core of the NGO’s interest.

However, I would like to note a few points on this issue:
1- Mushrooming NGOs and benefit oriented NGOs or the so called “family business NGOs” are there and will always please the donor because they are opportunists and all they think of is the money. I see and work with NGOs everyday that refuse to abide by donors priorities and are still able to make a change in their environment. And they have my respect and the donors’. They are committed to their cause, they are doing their best to find other funding sources. And yes it is a bit more challenging for them, but at the end of the day they are still doing by their mission and cause because they believe in it.

2- I was stricken by the example which a dear (very dear) human rights activist and friend of mine gave me to support his theory on disparity between donors and beneficiaries priorities: “If the donor wants to support LGBT rights, well this not our top priority, we have other more important things to look at…”
Well my dear friend, and my dear civil society colleagues, every Human Rights campaign is a priority for the group that is concerned by it. When every day men, women and transgender people are arrested and put in jail, sexual, physically abused, when they are thrown out of their jobs, bullied by their families and communities, when they suffer from sickness and do not get the proper care, I cannot allow myself to say or even think that their needs are not a Human Rights priority.
Every Human Rights issue is a priority because when we stop believing so, these questions of rights loose the attribution of HUMANITY, of HUMAN and they become a number of random rights that we address by choice or convenience.

For once and for all, when we talk about LGBT rights, about dignity, equality, hope, freedom, justice, we are talking about the rights of the most discriminated against portion of our society. A portion that is often the most creative, compassionate, innovative and brave, but living a double life, hiding from discrimination and bullying. I cannot stop thinking of LGBT rights as a Human Rights priority when there are laws in Lebanon that discriminate against LGBT people and can put them in jail.

Human Rights are universal, there is no such thing as a priority in Human Rights, there is no suchLGBT-Rights-Hillary-Clinton thing as a priority in injustice! The LGBT community is a core part of our Lebanese, Middle Eastern, Near Eastern, Arab, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, Atheist, Deist, Rural, Urban, Nomade communities. I am so done with hearing discriminatory comments on this issue. It is time to mature, grow up and understand that Homophobia is wrong, Homophobia is weak, Homophobia is every indication of contempt, lack of empathy and dismissal of the rights of LGBT people, equally human to every one in humanity.

If the donors are making LGBT rights a priority, it’s because we are blind enough to see and recognize the needs of a discriminated against, disadvantaged and marginalized community…

This is what I believe in — Eliane Fersan

NEWS NOTES: Synod Week in Review

I said it a few months ago that it will happen soon. The Catholic Church is walking on steady tracks to an inclusive approach toward all its followers and believers. Brave but shy, yet commendable! Keep it up!

Bondings 2.0

News NotesSynod news, particularly in regard to lesbian and gay issues, has been fast and furious this week.  Here are some articles that you might find of interest:

1. The International Business Timescaptured reactions to the synod’s working paper which affirms lesbian and gay people.  The report focuses on comments from Nicholas Coppola, who was dismissed from his parish’s volunteer ministries because he legally married a man in New York state.

2. New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick is interviewed by Al-Jazeeraabout the Church’s new approach to lesbian and gay people.

3. The Daily Beast’s Barbie Latza Nadeau notes that this synod may have included voices of lay Catholics, but the real question is whether the “men of the cloth are listening.” She comments on several LGBT-related synod events.

4. While the synod was happening in Rome, LGBT Catholics met in Portugal to start the first World Organization of Homosexual…

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Catholics Seek Legal Rights, Pastoral Welcome for All Families

Progress is inevitable…
As if this past decade had brought enlightenment to legislators, jurists, politicians, parents but most importantly to religious leaders who now embrace the inclusive approach to homosexuality in many churches around the world. But the Catholic Church, one of the largest in the world is still far from connecting with a significant portion of its followers. Pope Francis made the first right step forward, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Berlin won the Respect Prize by Berlin’s Alliance Against Homophobia, and many more will follow. I am just hoping the hierarchy does not win over reform…

Bondings 2.0

Advancing LGBT rights in the U.S. is increasingly a struggle about supporting families, both in the church and under the law. Below are several stories in which Catholics are standing up for just civil laws and inclusive pastoral care.

Adoption Rights

New legislation, known as the Inclusion Act, has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that would allow religiously-based agencies receiving government funds to refuse same-gender couples access to foster care and adoption services. This act has received the support of at least three Catholic bishops, but Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA criticized it in an essay on  The Huffington Post. She also happens to be the adoptive parent, with her wife ,of two girls.  She wrote:

“In almost every case, [same-sex couples] have given their kids an abundance of love and stability. The intentionality with which they chose to parent is carried forward into their raising of their daughters and sons. They have…

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Tripoli’s Massive PR Crisis: Beer Ads Banned In The City

Ghazali’s actions are unconstitutional and violate our consecrated right for freedom of expression, freedom of worship and freedom to live anywhere in Lebanon without fearing discrimination. I hope the central government and Minister Mashnouk takes proper actions towards this Mayor who thinks himself above the law. This is not the real image of Tripoli you are portraying! We will not believe you!

A Separate State of Mind | A Blog by Elie Fares

Tripoli Beer ads

It must be tough being from Tripoli lately, or at least tougher than average for the people of a city long forgotten by successive governments, left to its own accord to make do with the little it has.

It wasn’t enough for people from Tripoli to have to deal with the fact that the other Lebanese, quick as they are to judge and believe their views are scripture, believe them all to be undercover members of ISIS or ISIS members to be.

It wasn’t enough as well for those unfazed by the ISIS threat (yet) to deal with the fact that their city has become synonymous with mayhem, sporadic fights, mini wars and hating the Lebanese army. No amount of tweets, Facebook posts or mini gatherings on the street and billboards in support of the army or in condoning the behavior of some of the city’s men would change that…

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Article related to marriage and celibats in Lebanon what the Demoiselles are thinking?

While visiting a friend, her very courteous middle-aged male guest stood up to shake my hand and “politely” asked me: Should I call you Demoiselle or Madame? Flashing a big smile, which quickly turned into an expression of confusion and disturbance. I had simply answered him: “You can call me as you like – متل ما بدك”!
Clearly he was not expecting my reply, or should I say he was not expecting to reflect on whether I was a virgin or not!
Sadly that is the new Lebanese/Arab dimension of the words: demoiselle and madame…
Read more on the social pressures on sigle women in Lebanon

Ritachemaly's Blog

a great article I stumbled upon in Al Akhbar, related to Social pressures on single women , the age crisis, the stereotypes of women …

bref, I liked it!

enjoy reading it if you have time this summer 🙂

Rita Chemaly


Lebanon: “Misses” Don’t Miss Much

The idea of cohabitation is still widely frowned upon in Lebanese society. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

By: Nisrine Hammoud

Published Thursday, March 29, 2012

Social pressures on single women fail to acknowledge their economic independence, educational, and professional achievements, or the fact that “late marriage” is the statistical norm.

Her scattered grey hairs seem to render the trick of hiding them beneath colored hair useless. Her eyes have lost their former glow. Her facial lines are “under control” thanks to cosmetics whose container “annoys” her, as it suggests her age. Her stomach is slightly rounded. The fat refuses to burn. She gestures…

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